Scottish business figures react to budget

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Chancellor Philip Hammond delivered his second Budget earlier this week and it was broadly welcomed by Scottish business figures, SBNN caught up with several of them after the budget proposals were announced.

Jumpstart, the UK’s leading R&D tax relief specialist, welcomes the focus on innovation in the 2017 budget. Scott Henderson, Jumpstart’s Managing Director commented:

“The plan to bring UK R&D spending into line with the world’s other rich nations within a decade is just the fillip that businesses need against the backdrop of Brexit uncertainty. The commitment to improve productivity signals that Britain is serious about maintaining its primary role as a trading nation.”

Leah Hutcheon, Chief Executive of Appointedd said:

“I am pleased to see a focus on young companies and tech in particular in today’s budget announcement. Appointedd, alongside many other tech disruptors in the industry, embraces entrepreneurship, innovation and automation so it’s encouraging to hear the Chancellor state that not only does he want to see a new tech company launched in the UK every half an hour, but he is putting in place a plan to unlock over £20 billion of new investment in UK scale-up businesses.”

Ed Molyneux, CEO and Co-founder of FreeAgent was not so positive and said “Recent Budgets have rarely delivered any good news for the UK’s freelancers and micro-businesses; and I don’t expect things to be any different this time round. We are already hearing rumours about potential tax and legislation changes that could have a negative effect on these type of businesses, so I fear that they will have to brace themselves for some bad news.

“Assuming that the VAT threshold is lowered – as some reports are suggesting – a huge number of contractors, freelancers and micro-business owners would be faced with a significant new administrative and financial burden.

“It’s very unfair to position freelancers and contractors as not being on a level playing field with those who are employed. These business owners have none of the employment rights or the security that employed workers have and there must be some recognition for that – unless the government wants to slow the growth of  this very important part of the UK economy – representing more than 95% of the UK’s 5.5 million businesses.

“We would like to see some positive news in the Budget for the micro-business sector; whether it’s new legislation to help them overcome the chronic issue of late payment, easier tax rules to navigate or simply recognition of the recent Taylor Review and the ongoing status of those working in the gig economy. Freelancers and micro-businesses play a huge role in our economy – it’s time the government started supporting them.”

Commenting on the Chancellor’s proposals for the UK oil & gas industry, Roman Webber, UK Oil & Gas Tax Leader at Deloitte, said:

“Today’s innovative oil and gas tax announcements are likely to boost the market for North Sea oil and gas assets, particularly for mature fields. North Sea tax rates are already globally competitive and the implementation of the Autumn Budget’s changes will remove the key tax barriers to mergers and acquisitions allowing the right assets to pass to the right hands.

“While the OBR estimates that the policies will increase the tax take by £70 million over the next five years, it’s over the longer term that the real benefits will be felt by the industry and the Exchequer, through increased economic activity and deferral of decommissioning of UKCS fields.

“The delay of the introduction of the innovative Transferable Tax History policy until November 2018 is necessary to ensure that safeguards are put in place to protect all stakeholders. In some cases this change will allow the buyer to access a tax refund based on tax previously paid by the seller.”

Robin Mitchell, Real Estate partner in the Edinburgh office at Shoosmiths LLP, commented “The main talking point in the Scottish property market will be on a measure which does not directly affect Scotland, namely the exemption from SDLT for first time buyers of properties up to £300,000, and reduced tax for such purchases between £300,000 and £500,000.
 
“A first time buyer in Scotland can expect to pay £5,000 of Land and Buildings Transaction Tax on a £300,000 property and £23,350 on a  £500,000 property, compared with new figures of £0 and £10,000 respectively in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
 
“The move, intended to make home ownership more affordable, will be watched with interest in Scotland, and we await with interest the Scottish Government’s confirmation as to whether they intend to take similar measures to ease first time buyers’ entry into the property market north of the border.”

Andy Willox, the FSB’s Scottish policy convenor, said: “The last thing that Scottish small firms wanted was a Budget which pulled the rug from under them. The Chancellor’s solid plans will give many in business a little of the stability they crave.

“As many as 190,000 Scottish micro-businesses – like crofters, musicians and start-ups – could have been hit had the VAT threshold been lowered. Instead, FSB is ready to work with the Treasury to simplify an over-complicated tax.”

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